Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oerter is a mensch


Physicist Robert Oerter and I have been having an exchange over James Ross’s argument for the immateriality of the intellect.  In response to my most recent post, Oerter has posted a brief comment.  Give it a read.  I have nothing to say in reply other than that Oerter is a good, honest, decent guy and that if we’re ever in the same town I owe him a beer.

95 comments:

Scott said...

I heartily concur and I'm surprised not to have seen more comments on this, either here or on his blog. He's a gentleman and I offered him my kudos (for whatever they're worth) in the previous thread.

You deserve kudos too for your acknowledgement of his gracious response, and I (and, I'm sure, others) knew it would be forthcoming when you had time.

Glenn said...

...I'm surprised not to have seen more comments on this, either here or on his blog.

Well, okay. I read R. Oerter's comment in the previous thread moments after it showed up (pure coincidence), then tracked down and read his brief comment on his own blog. I did notice the graciousness. But what stood out more than that for me was the intellectual integrity.

Debilis said...

Indeed. He reminds me that it is commitment to truth, not personal victory or ego, that should be the motivation for debate.

JS said...

If only more discussion and debate could be like this

Scott said...

@Glenn:

I agree. I think I'm just not distinguishing as firmly as you are between graciousness and intellectual integrity. To me it all seems to be part of one big package.

BenYachov said...

I feel good about that.

Peter DO Smith said...

Just for a moment I felt transported back to an older and more gentle age when manners mattered, decency was the norm and respect was strength.

We all debate with enthusiasm but this has brought home the lesson that enthusiasm must be the servant of truth and the handmaiden of respect.

Glenn said...

Scott,

To me it all seems to be part of one big package.

I agree.

(And sorry for the terseness of, "Well, okay." The actual thought behind it was, "Dang. I was going to remark on it, but didn't, and I really should have. Well, okay, I guess I'd better do so now.")

Glenn said...

(As if that ought to have been obvious, right? Sheesh. Don't mind me. "If Glenn is on a programming run, then eccentricities are likely to creep into his attempts to communicate with fellow human beings rather than with a microchip. Glenn is on a programming run. Therefore...")

Crude said...

Just how many programmers frequent this blog anyway? I mean, I program - apparently Glenn does. Who else?

Heuristics said...

I program.

Currently writing a programming language inspired by 'divine simplicity' and 'convertibility of Gods attributes'. Basically I posed the question: "what is the most fundamental part of a program and can this part represent everything?" The answer was: The Function and Yes.

The secret was in getting rid of infix notation.

Example:

main {
three() { return(3) }
assert(equality(3, main::three), "error")
}

So, every statement (including "3") is a function (simplicity) and the meaning of a function just depends on it's syntactical context but is really the same basic thing (convertability).

Whoever said theology was useless?

Robert Oerter said...

Thanks, Prof. Next time you're in DC let me know and I'll take you up on that beer!

grodrigues said...

@Crude:

"Just how many programmers frequent this blog anyway? I mean, I program - apparently Glenn does. Who else?"

I do not know what you count as a programmer but I have done the odd programming job, both in a semi-professional capacity and in a non-professional one (e.g. a couple of contributions to open source projects or I having my name in the second edition of Python's cookbook -- Yay).

And I understand Haskell and know what a monad is. Grin.

Scott said...

@Crude:

I program too.

@Glenn:

No worries, mate.

thefederalist said...

I'm a programmer.

Tony said...

I have done some modest programming in the past, but nothing really sophisticated.

The Deuce said...

Crude:

Just how many programmers frequent this blog anyway? I mean, I program - apparently Glenn does. Who else?

Me too.

Name/URL said...

"All formal thinking is determinate"


What does "determinate" mean?

Thanks.

Crude said...

Just as I thought, a sizable number of programmers, even among the regulars. Cool.

I remember going through my manual and seeing Plato referenced to explain the basic concept of object-oriented programming. A neat moment.

David T said...

I'm an EE by training, but like many EE's, the software vortex got me and I've spent the last 20 years writing C, Ada and Java.

Anonymous said...

According to Ross' paper, determine means something like "of a definite abstract form (e.g., N × N = N^2), and not indeterminate among incompossible forms "

Aquohn said...

@Feser: Er...this is severely-off topic, but, uh, hi, I've been quietly following this blog for quite a while now and I've bought and read Aquinas, while I'm halfway through TLS. I do think that A-T is true, but there a couple of questions that have been bugging me for a while. So I'd really appreciate it if you or one of the other regulars could answer the following:

1) Do things like darkness, cold, etc. which, from a scientific perspective, *don’t actually exist*, being simply the absence of light and heat respectively, have essences?

2) Intuitively, bacteria, amoebae and other microorganisms are lower down the hierarchy of being than plants. However, they possess the power of locomotion, a power that belongs to the animal soul. Doesn’t this imply that they are, in fact, animals?

Thanks.

@Crude: I'm an amateur programmer.

James Drake said...

I too program. More a reader of Professor Feser's than a poster here.

Scott said...

@Aquohn said:

"1) Do things like darkness, cold, etc. which, from a scientific perspective, *don’t actually exist*, being simply the absence of light and heat respectively, have essences?"

No. The reason, as you seem rightly to imply, isn't just that they don't exist; it's that they aren't anything positive to begin with, which is why they don't exist. Even something that doesn't exist—a unicorn, for example—can still have an essence, if it could exist; it just doesn't have existence. But a sheer privation, the absence of this or that positive thing, isn't anything positive at all.

"2) Intuitively, bacteria, amoebae and other microorganisms are lower down the hierarchy of being than plants. However, they possess the power of locomotion, a power that belongs to the animal soul. Doesn’t this imply that they are, in fact, animals?"

Yes, if by "animal" you mean "that which has an animal soul." That may or may not match up with current scientific usage of the term, though.

James said...

I’m an economist by training and a data guy by trade, but programming (and computer science more generally) is a rather important hobby of mine. It’s also been frequently useful.

Anonymous said...

Scott --

Must disagree.

Blackness is distinguishable from other colors. If it were a nothing we wouldn't be aware of it all. What we experience when we experience black is the state of our retina when no photons are striking it. This poses epistemological problems, of course.

Our experience of cold is the experience of the state of our bodies when the temperature is low. But it is not the experience of nothing -- it's just that the temperature of the body itself is lower than usual.

Again this raises the epistemological question: then what is it that we experience -- in both cases the sensations are states of our bodies, not objective realities, though in a sense our bodies are objective in that they can be experienced by other conscious beings than ourselves.

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

I smell some Conceptualism maybe some Nominalism
but definitely some form of anti-realism on Anon November 8, 2013 at 9:45 PM.

Which is fine for him but we are moderate realists here & I thought I should at least point that out so we can all get on the same page & know more clearly where we disagree on the fundamental level.

Cheers.

John Quin said...

What an awesome outcome and so rare nowadays.

Aquohn said...

@Scott: Thanks a lot for clearing that up.

So that means that, e.g. the Form of Cold that Plato mentions in his <a href='http://edwardfeser.blogspot.sg/2009/11/platos-affinity-argument.html">final argument</a> for the immortality of the soul doesn't actually exist?

Scott said...

@Aquohn:

It seems to me that anything that has an essence must be something positive and not just a privation.

If Anonymous (above) is right that "black" is a positive color (or at least a positive something) and not merely the absence of color, then it could have an essence (unless there's some other reason to deny that colors have essences). So could a version of "cold" if we can take that as something positive (again, unless there's some other reason to deny it).

But I don't think a mere privation or absence can be said to have an essence. That's the general principle; which things in the real world are positive and which are mere privations is in most cases an empirical question, I'd say.

Jeremy Taylor said...

What I struggle to see is the utlimate difference between Aristotle's moderate realism and Plato's apparently extreme realism.

After all, as Scott notes, the Aristotlian seems to realise that Forms must exist somewhere outside corporeal substances - in the Mind of God.

What Platonism makes explicit is the Forms - the Archetypes - must descend through successive layers of increasing delimitation and privation to exist in the corporeal realm. The Aristotle perspective seems to try and sweep this process under the rug, and not very successfully.

George R. said...

Jeremy,
Aristotle utterly destroyed Platonic extreme realism in his Metaphysics. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the substantial truth of moderate realism is not even debatable anymore. This doesn't mean there aren't any difficulties with MR. There are difficulties involved with all great truths. Nor does it mean that Aristotle and Aquinas said everything there is to know about the issue. Nor were they right about everything they did say about it. But at the end of the day moderate realism stands unvanquished, while all its competitors are plagued with fatal problems.

Scott said...

Well . . . the problem of universals (and for that matter the problem of whether Plato's Forms are supposed to be "universals" in the first place) is a broad question not likely to be resolved in a combox, but I will say that I tend to agree both with Jeremy Taylor that the Forms need somewhere to "live" (namely the Divine Intellect or Mind of God) and with George R. that moderate realism has pretty much won the day. What I'm not sure of is whether Aquinas held that a universal was genuinely identically present in diverse instances or whether he held only that we arrived at the same concept when we abstracted from these instances. My understanding of him is the latter, but the former is a defensible position that I think was Aristotle's whether or not it was Aquinas's. And the former has, I think, the advantage of being true.

But all of this has "debatable" written all over it.

Jeremy Taylor said...

According to Giovanni Reale the criticism of Aristotle I think you are talking about, George, was nothing less than a howler - that is, they mistake the whole meaning and import of the "Second Voyage" and the role that the Forms play in Plato's explanation of reality.

As Reale puts it:

"It could already be said, in general, that these criticisms, and those that appear as the most damaging, in reality arise from a basic howler: they treat the Ideas, which are introduced by Plato as a cause, on the same level as the things of which they are causes; that is, they demote the cause to the same ontological level as the effect, with all the consequences that this error implies, in particular with the total lack of understanding of the transcendence of the Ideas in the metaphysical sense."

This is not the only time Aristotle seems to have a basic misunderstanding of the philosophy of those he critiques. For example, there is good evidence the real Parmenides was a quite different figure from that which emerges from the pages of Aristotle - although Aristotle's Parmenides plays a useful part, which is valid whatever the real Parmenides actually taught, in Aristotle's thought. But Aristotle knew Plato well, so how he came to this particular misunderstanding is harder to see, though Plato's immediate successors in the Academy seem not to have always captured the naunces of his thought either.

I'm not sure what is meant when it is suggest Aristotelianism has won the day. It seems to me it didn't win the day in antiquity: Platonism made a good showing til the days of Justinian, in its Hellenic form. In its Christianised form Platonism was triumphant throughout Christendom until, in the West, the thirteenth century. It continues to be dominant in the East and it was hardly vanguished once and for all by the Schoolmen (even leaving aside Plato's influence on them) - Platonism reemergences with a vengeance in the Renaissance.

My understanding is that Platonism has also always had a respectable showing in the Muslim and Jewish worlds.

Personally, I don't consider Aristotle and Plato to be incompatible for the most part - Aristotle seems to me simply a unique kind of Platonist. I have an interesting book by Lloyd Gerson that argues the same point.

Anyway, my main point was I'm not sure of the difference between Aristotle's realism and Plato's - at least so far as the latter is supposed to moderate - once it is admitted that even the Aristotelian must situate the forms in the Mind of God: Proclus and the like say the exact same thing. Maybe I'm wrong though. My understanding of Aristotle is not what it could be.

Aquohn said...

@Scott: Hmm...are you saying that there's a form of the colour perception black, and the sensation of cold? But aren't they immaterial qualia?

Scott said...

@Aquohn:

I'm not saying there is or isn't., just that whether there could be depends on whether either counts as something more than a privation. But either way, the fact that something is "immaterial" doesn't mean it can't have a form.

@Jeremy Taylor and George R.:

This piece by Lloyd Gerson might be of interest.

Scott said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

If the "interesting book by Lloyd Gerson" is Aristotle and Other Platonists, I'd be very interested in your opinion of it. It's been near the top of my to-buy list for a few months now.

Scott said...

By the way, for anyone who's interested, Jim Madden's book arrived yesterday and I'm reading it now.

Scott said...

(Oops, I should have posted that to the previous thread, and I can't delete it because there's no delete function available on the "Post a Comment" page and the original post isn't long enough to have its own page. Well, no harm done, I guess.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Scott,

Thanks for that link.

Gerson's work is very good and definitely worth buying. He is a lucid and clear writer. He covers quite a wide array of relations and convergences between Plato's and Aristotle's philosophy. I'm not sure what Gerson's own perspective is - whether or not he is a Platonist - and he certainly maintains a detachment from his subject matter and writes in a way quite different from many Platonists.

On Plato, and indeed Aristotle, I also heartedly recommend Giovanni Reale's A History of Ancient Philosophy II: Plato and Aristotle . This is one of the best introductions to the core of Plato's philosophy I have come across.

The other sources that really help to understand Plato are Pythagoras and the Pythagorean tradition, because Plato is even simply a unique Pythagorean than Aristotle is simply a unique Platonist; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Although understanding Coleridge himself can require secondary sources, once you do understand him he is one of the best modern introductions to the whole Platonic perspective on reality.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- that should have been "even more simply a unique..."

Scott said...

@JT: Thank you.

Scott said...

And I've just ordered Aristotle and Other Platonists.

Edmundas Adomonis said...

hi everyone,

just a little remark about "exist":

@Aquohn said:
@Scott said:

"1) Do things like darkness, cold, etc. which, from a scientific perspective, *don’t actually exist*, being simply the absence of light and heat respectively, have essences?"

No. The reason, as you seem rightly to imply, isn't just that they don't exist; it's that they aren't anything positive to begin with, which is why they don't exist. Even something that doesn't exist—a unicorn, for example—can still have an essence, if it could exist; it just doesn't have existence. But a sheer privation, the absence of this or that positive thing, isn't anything positive at all."

It's difficult to understand what "exist" means in "things like darkness, cold, etc. which, from a scientific perspective, don’t actually exist". If there are absences of things in the world like holes, etc., so well... they exist (from any perspective). The cold can make people shiver, sink holes can cause traffic problems, people can climb through a hole in the fence (if there is one), etc.

Compare "darkness, cold, holes don’t exist" with "unicorns don't exist".

It is just that "the absence of this or that positive thing" are not like tables, stones and people usually understand this perfectly well and don't get confused at all when talking about them (about their "existence"). Yes, in some cases we learn from science what is "behind" the ordinary facts, as it were, e.g. thermal phenomena.

Mr. Green said...

Edmundas Adomonis: If there are absences of things in the world like holes, etc., so well... they exist (from any perspective). The cold can make people shiver, sink holes can cause traffic problems, people can climb through a hole in the fence (if there is one), etc.

We can think of things that don't exist as though they did... that is, we can abstract certain features in our minds and imagine "beings of reason". So we can treat a hole like a plain ordinary thing as far as we think about it, but unlike cartoon holes, or story-book shadows, it isn't actually made of any stuff — materially, the hole is a lack of something, not a presence of something. People can climb "through whole" just the same as they can walk through a place where there is no fence at all.


Scott: If Anonymous (above) is right that "black" is a positive color (or at least a positive something) and not merely the absence of color, then it could have an essence (unless there's some other reason to deny that colors have essences). So could a version of "cold" if we can take that as something positive (again, unless there's some other reason to deny it).

I agree, and I too am inclined to say that blackness is indeed a real colour qualitatively speaking (as opposed to "darkness" as an absence of light). It seems to be something we can "see" like any other colour, as opposed to silence, which is unlike hearing any sound. This makes for an unusual case, in which red, or blue, etc. are mediated by red, or blue, etc. light, whereas the colour black is caused by a lack of light... but I don't think that's problematic in itself.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: I remember going through my manual and seeing Plato referenced to explain the basic concept of object-oriented programming. A neat moment.

Yes, I think half the people here must be programmers! I've also come across references to Plato when describing OO... unfortunately followed by a remark to the effect that actual Platonism is a failure. Ouch!

I still think that Scholasticism has something to contribute to various questions in computer science. But I guess will take some time — if perennial philosophy is rising in popularity (as I'm hopeful it is), it may take a few generations for it to go from "intellectual responsibly" to "taken for granted" as a possible foundation for tackling other problems.

Timotheos said...

@ Mr. Green

To refine what you’re saying a little bit, I think we should define blackness as what we see when our eyes are operating correctly, but when they are hit by no light.

So “blackness” would be the absence of light in the eye, whereas “darkness” would be a complete absence of light and seeing ability, and thus would not be qualitatively anything.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

“What I'm not sure of is whether Aquinas held that a universal was genuinely identically present in diverse instances or whether he held only that we arrived at the same concept when we abstracted from these instances.”

Could you please clarify what you mean by “genuinely identically present,” since there are a couple of ways to interpret that phrase.

@ Mr. Green

"Yes, I think half the people here must be programmers!"

Hmm... Programmers and blogging, sounds like a stereotype


"unfortunately followed by a remark to the effect that actual Platonism is a failure"

Out of curiosity, what did they try to replace it with: Nominalism, Aristotelian Realism, some other form of Realism, or Conceptualism? Or did they just feign ignorance and get back to programming?

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"Could you please clarify what you mean by 'genuinely identically present,' since there are a couple of ways to interpret that phrase."

Suppose there are two cats that are the exact same color. Is it the case that one single color-quality is present in each of the two cats, or is it just that there are two "exactly similar" qualities, one in each? By "genuinely identically present" I mean the former.

Mr. Green said...

Jeremy Taylor: Personally, I don't consider Aristotle and Plato to be incompatible for the most part - Aristotle seems to me simply a unique kind of Platonist.

Indeed; Aristotelianism is a spin-off of Platonism, after all. Westcountryman once posted here Coleridge's assessment that each man is born a Platonist or an Aristotelian. We often think of them as opposites, but that's a testament to how fundamental the platonic family of thought really is: viewed in the company of all other schools of thought, (neo)Platonism and Aristotelianism are clearly siblings; but the fact that they work so much more successfully than their challengers means the others dropped out of the picture — at least until the modern age — and looked at in isolation, they represent separate poles. But it's worth keeping in mind that they are different ends of philosophy that's any good.

Mr. Green said...

Timotheos: So “blackness” would be the absence of light in the eye, whereas “darkness” would be a complete absence of light and seeing ability, and thus would not be qualitatively anything.

Agreed.


Hmm... Programmers and blogging, sounds like a stereotype

Well... some stereotypes are approximately good approximations of reality!

Out of curiosity, what did they try to replace it with: Nominalism, Aristotelian Realism, some other form of Realism, or Conceptualism?

The bit about Plato was just an aside, I don't think any further metaphysics was indulged in. Still, it is... interesting... how many people can recognise the connection to Platonic Forms yet fail to conclude how necessary they really are to an In-form-ation Age.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

Hmm… still not for sure what you mean, could you clarify a little more (what can I say, I’m a little slow; it’s cause I tore my ACL back in high school)

Every sense that I’ve thought of so far either makes you obviously correct, to the point that Aquinas couldn’t deny it, or it makes you a Platonist, which you certainly aren’t.

The main problem for me is what exactly do you mean by the ambiguous but hard to avoid words ‘in’ and ‘identical’.

Also, you say, “[Aquinas might have] held only that we arrived at the same concept when we abstracted from these instances.”

To me, this position smacks of conceptualism, since the universals abstractly existing in our mind would become different from the same universals concretely existing in their instances. And Aquinas certainly wasn’t a conceptualist (or at least he didn’t intend to be) so what am I missing?

Timotheos said...

I keep thinking about a programmer who sees "Well... some stereotypes are approximately good approximations of reality!" and says something like, "What stereotype, you never put a typedef for stereotype in the header!"

Note also that I was never hostile to stereotyping; it's only bad when it's abused.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

In a way, pinning down the precise meaning of words like "in" and "identical" in this context just is the problem of universals: given two balls, for example, is there a literally "identical" sphericity present "in" each one, and if so, in what sense?

I'm not a huge fan of the term "moderate realism"; I prefer "immanent idealism," as distinguished from Plato's "transcendental idealism" (both of which terms I ran across in this excellent encyclopedia entry). I'm also pretty much on board with the neo-Platonist/Augustinian reconciliation according to which Forms and/or universals subsist in the Divine Intellect rather than existing in some independent realm of their own.

However, I do think there must be some literal sense in which one and the same sphericity is "identically" present "in" two balls, and (as some of us recently discussed in another thread) I'm not at all sure that Aquinas would agree. As rank sophist pointed out in that thread, Aquinas did seem to hold that not just the two balls but their forms are numerically distinct, and each of those forms is also numerically distinct from the form I have in my own intellect when I think about them. And you're quite right that this view skirts the edges of conceptualism; that's precisely my concern. (The Gerson essay to which I linked, though, argues that Plato didn't really intend his Forms to be "universals" anyway, so maybe it doesn't matter.)

I'm rambling a bit (in part because I have a nasty head and chest cold), so I apologize if I haven't quite answered your question or addressed this or that point adequately.

dguller said...

Scott:

The way that I like to think about it is as follows. Say you have individual substances, X and Y, and X and Y are both instantiations of the form F. We can say that F exists in two modes, F-in-X and F-in-Y. It is the same F in X and Y, but it is numerically distinct, because F is in-X with respect to X and in-Y with respect to Y. But when the mind abstracts the in-X and in-Y, then it is left with the same F. So, F is formally identical, but numerically distinct.

dguller said...

Scott:

And I'm pretty sure that is Aquinas' position, as well. He certainly made the distinction between formal identity and numerical identity.

Scott said...

@dguller:

Agreed on all points, but I think that still leaves us the main question. When X and Y have the "same" form F, is one and the same form F located "in" both X and Y (or do both X and Y "participate" in one and the same F)? If the forms of X and Y are numerically distinct, it would seem not—and in that case the formal identity seems to amount to nothing more than my arriving at one and the same concept when I think about X and Y.

Scott said...

In other words, when you say that "We can say that F exists in two modes, F-in-X and F-in-Y," does this mean that there are numerically two Fs (one "in X" and one "in Y"), or that one and the same F is both "in X" and "in Y"? If the former, then what distinguishes this from conceptualism? And if the latter, then what does numerical distinctness mean?

dguller said...

Scott:

Agreed on all points, but I think that still leaves us the main question. When X and Y have the "same" form F, is one and the same form F located "in" both X and Y (or do both X and Y "participate" in one and the same F)? If the forms of X and Y are numerically distinct, it would seem not—and in that case the formal identity seems to amount to nothing more than my arriving at one and the same concept when I think about X and Y.

I think that when you strip the associated particularities from F, i.e. remove the in-X and in-Y from F, then it is one and the same F that is left over. That is what formal identity is. Certainly, once you add particularities to F, then F becomes numerically distinct. For example, F can exist in matter as a physical entity, and F can exist in an intellect as a concept. F-in-matter is numerically distinct from F-in-intellect, but only because of the presence of particularizing distinctions. However, those particularizing distinctions can be abstracted away by the human mind until only F remains. It is analogous to the purification process that occurs in Neoplatonism where one negates and removes all kinds of distinction from one’s mind until one is left with the One who lacks all distinction. But I think the key is to recall that there are different kinds of identity, i.e. formal identity and numerical identity. So, when one says that it is the same F, then one is talking about formal identity, and not numerical identity.

Edmundas Adomonis said...

@Mr. Green said:
"We can think of things that don't exist as though they did... that is, we can abstract certain features in our minds and imagine "beings of reason". So we can treat a hole like a plain ordinary thing as far as we think about it, but unlike cartoon holes, or story-book shadows, it isn't actually made of any stuff - materially, the hole is a lack of something, not a presence of something. People can climb "through whole" just the same as they can walk through a place where there is no fence at all."

You seem to insist that holes and shadows don't exist after all, so I'm not even sure how the word "exist" is used here; "as though exist" isn't any clearer.

Sure holes are not made of any stuff (they are holes after all) but they are plain ordinary things, everyone is familiar with them :) I can see holes (I can see that a brick is absent in the wall). There is no metaphysics in this. Of course they are of different sort from, say, furniture - it's a different aspect of the world. Maybe it can even be said "belong to a different category", if one insists. But no way it's kind of only exist as far as we think about it or kind of imaginary thing, etc., no way it's an abstraction like geometrical point.

"hole in the fence" and "there is no fence at all" are very different.

I have heard somewhere that some metaphysicians had problems with holes. Very strange.

Thanks for the link to cartoon holes: portable holes are useful for going through walls, as well as for thinking how to conceptualize weird things.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"I think that when you strip the associated particularities from F, i.e. remove the in-X and in-Y from F, then it is one and the same F that is left over."

Sure, and this is exactly what I do in my intellect when I form my concept of F and understand X and Y as entities of that form. But that leaves me with my question about how invoking "formal identity" makes this different from conceptualism.

As I understand him, Aquinas is also pretty clear that the form F instantiated in my intellect is numerically distinct not only from the forms in X and Y but also from the form in your intellect when you think about X and Y. Far from X, Y, and our thoughts of them having something literally in common, the entire landscape seems to be littered with numerically distinct (but "formally identical") Fs.

So I'm still not sure what work this "formal identity" is supposed to be doing. If it means that one single form is present in X, in Y, and in our thoughts of X and Y, that's fine (and it's definitely "moderate realism" or immanent idealism), but then it seems idle to distinguish "formal identity" from "numerical identity." It seems to me that the numerical distinction in that case would be between the instantiations of F; F itself would not be numerically diverse.

dguller said...

Scott:

Sure, and this is exactly what I do in my intellect when I form my concept of F and understand X and Y as entities of that form. But that leaves me with my question about how invoking "formal identity" makes this different from conceptualism.

I’m not too sure what you mean by “conceptualism”.

As I understand him, Aquinas is also pretty clear that the form F instantiated in my intellect is numerically distinct not only from the forms in X and Y but also from the form in your intellect when you think about X and Y. Far from X, Y, and our thoughts of them having something literally in common, the entire landscape seems to be littered with numerically distinct (but "formally identical") Fs.

Agreed.

So I'm still not sure what work this "formal identity" is supposed to be doing.

Formal identity grounds the objectivity of knowledge. It is only because F-in-matter and F-in-intellect is a formally identical F in both that we can have knowledge about things at all. Unless F is isomorphic between a material entity and an immaterial intellect, then knowledge becomes entirely subjective, because there is no objective connection between our thoughts and the world.

If it means that one single form is present in X, in Y, and in our thoughts of X and Y, that's fine (and it's definitely "moderate realism" or immanent idealism), but then it seems idle to distinguish "formal identity" from "numerical identity." It seems to me that the numerical distinction in that case would be between the instantiations of F; F itself would not be numerically diverse.

Agreed, but it all depends upon what you are talking about. Are you talking about F-in-X and F-in-Y, or are you talking about F itself? If you are talking about the former, then you have numerical distinction, because F is instantiated in X and Y, and thus there are two F’s that are actualized in the world. But if you are talking about the latter, then you only have one F, because you have abstracted all the particularizing elements that would result in numerical distinction, and thus are left with unity. It is like asking how many objects there are in a room, which would depend upon what counts as an “object” (i.e. only whole substances, only parts of substances, wholes and parts, and so on).

Scott said...

@dguller:

"I’m not too sure what you mean by 'conceptualism'."

Conceptualism is one proposed solution to the problem of universals. Basically it says that universals aren't present "in" particulars at all but are concepts only.

"Formal identity grounds the objectivity of knowledge."

I'm not certain it's sufficient to do that, though, if the form F in my intellect and the form F in the X and Y that I know with my intellect are also numerically distinct. Talk of isomorphisms between numerically distinct forms looks an awful lot like representationalism and inherits a host of familiar modern problems.

If Aquinas means something stronger than that by formal identity, okay. But in that case I don't see anything in his numerical diversity beyond the fact that a universal may be multiply instantiated.

"If you are talking about [F-in-X and F-in-Y], then you have numerical distinction, because F is instantiated in X and Y, and thus there are two F’s that are actualized in the world."

Well, there are X and Y, each of which is F, but the very question at issue here is whether that means there are two Fs. If X and Y don't instantiate the very same F, what is it that makes them both F? And if they do (so that F is a real universal), then there aren't diverse Fs, just diverse instantiations of F.

Timotheos said...

@ dguller

I think what Scott is getting at is that there is a regress problem. His position seems to be that each of the forms in all of a universal’s instances are the same. If you say that each of the forms are formally the same in each instance, but are numerically different, then you are forced to answer in what way are the forms in its instances the same, and the only answer is to say that the forms share the same form, which leads to a vicious regress.

Did I capture that part of the problem adequately for you Scott?

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

That's a different way of characterizing the issue but I think it makes a similar point. I think moderate realism, in order to be moderate realism at all, has to agree that at least some cases of resemblance or similarity "bottom out" in literal identity. "Two things that are an awful lot alike" are still two things.

Take a thought experiment that's due, if memory serves, to D.M. Armstrong. Suppose two books have the exact same color. Does it make any sense to suppose that the "two" colors were the other way around instead? If not, on what basis do we say there are "two" colors at all, rather than one color instantiated twice (as I think a moderate realist would say)?

The exegetical question as regards Aquinas just has to do with what he did say and whether it's fully consistent with moderate realism. On the one hand, his "formal identity" seems to grant what I've said above. On the other hand, if his "numerical distinctness" means anything more than that a single (in our example) color can be multiply instantiated, I think he risks tumbling into conceptualism.

However, as I also suggested above, maybe Lloyd Gerson is right that Plato's Forms aren't supposed to be universals anyway. In that case perhaps Aquinas isn't concerned with the problem of universals at all in his discussions of the Forms.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

If I understand your position right, this would seem to be Aquinas agreeing with you.

“He proceeds to treat the first member of this division. First, he shows that the animal present in man and that present in horse are one and the same. Second, he explains the absurdities which follow from this position (“If, then”).

(Note that by “Second, he explains the absurdities…” he was talking about Plato’s position, not the one he just stated, which he agreed with. This tripped me up when I first read it)

He accordingly says, first, that it is evident that the animal present in man and that present in horse are one and the same in their intelligible expression; for if one states the intelligible expression of animal insofar as it is predicated of each, namely, of man and of horse, the same intelligible expression—living sensible substance—will be assigned to each of them; for a genus is predicated univocally of a species just as a species is also predicated univocally of individuals. Hence, if, because of the fact that species are predicated of all individuals according to one intelligible expression, there is a common man, who is man-in-himself, existing by himself, “and who is a particular thing,” i.e., something subsistent which can be pointed to and is separable from sensible things, as the Platonists maintained, then for a similar reason the things of which a species consists, namely, genus and difference, such as animal and two-footed, must also signify particular things and be separable from their own inferiors, and be substances existing by themselves. Hence it follows that animal will be one individual and subsistent thing, which is predicated of man and of horse.”

Aquinas’s Commentary of the Metaphysics Book VII Lesson 14 section 1593
Available here

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

"Two things that are an awful lot alike are still two things.”

Indeed, as you imply, two things that are similar must be in some way the same, and in some other way different, otherwise, the two things would be no longer similar, or they would be the same.

And positing that the sameness that each of these has is merely similar doesn’t solve the problem, since we would have to ask in what way would those two similarities are the same, so that they can be similar, leading to the regress I was mentioning earlier.

dguller said...

Scott:

Conceptualism is one proposed solution to the problem of universals. Basically it says that universals aren't present "in" particulars at all but are concepts only.

In that case, I am not advocating conceptualism. The forms are truly present in particulars, albeit in different modes of being.

I'm not certain it's sufficient to do that, though, if the form F in my intellect and the form F in the X and Y that I know with my intellect are also numerically distinct. Talk of isomorphisms between numerically distinct forms looks an awful lot like representationalism and inherits a host of familiar modern problems.

Think of it this way. Say you have a cookie cutter, and you use the cookie cutter to cut different shapes. In one sense, the shapes are all exactly the same, i.e. they are all the shape of the cookie cutter, but in another sense, they are different, because they are different instantiations of that cookie cutter shape. So, one can meaningfully say that they are the same, i.e. have the same form, but different, i.e. the same form is instantiated in different particulars. In other words, the actual shapes are partially identical and partially different from one another, which is what grounds their similarity or likeness to one another. And I don’t think someone can then doubt that the different instantiations do not share the same shape.

If Aquinas means something stronger than that by formal identity, okay. But in that case I don't see anything in his numerical diversity beyond the fact that a universal may be multiply instantiated.

And that’s probably all that he meant, but it is the same universal that is instantiated in the sense of formal identity.

Think about it like this.

You have a dog and a cat. The dog has a dog form and the cat has a cat form. How many forms are there in this situation? Well, it depends on how you look at it. If you are looking at the kinds of forms, then there are two forms, i.e. a dog form and a cat form. They are different forms, and thus are formally different. If you are looking at the number of forms present within particular instantiations, then the answer is also two, i.e. one form is in the particular dog another form is in the particular cat. So, there is formal distinction and numerical distinction.

What about if you have two dogs? How many forms in that situation? If you are looking at the kind of forms, then there is one form, because there is only the dog form that is present in both dogs. If you are looking at the number of instantiations of those forms, then there are two forms, because there are two instantiations of those forms, and each instantiation must have a numerically distinct form. So, there is formal identity and numerical distinction.

Without the distinction between formal distinction and numerical distinction, then one could make no sense of the above scenarios. In both cases, there would be two forms, and one could not make any comparisons between the forms themselves, thus prohibiting any kind objective knowledge whatsoever, because all that would exist is particulars that have no commonality or connection to each other. It is the formal identity that grounds this commonality, which grounds objective knowledge. Without it, we are left with Humean skepticism.

Well, there are X and Y, each of which is F, but the very question at issue here is whether that means there are two Fs. If X and Y don't instantiate the very same F, what is it that makes them both F? And if they do (so that F is a real universal), then there aren't diverse Fs, just diverse instantiations of F.

Again, it depends upon what you are counting, the number of forms, or the number of instantiations of forms.

dguller said...

I think moderate realism, in order to be moderate realism at all, has to agree that at least some cases of resemblance or similarity "bottom out" in literal identity. "Two things that are an awful lot alike" are still two things.

I agree. What is the same would be the form stripped of all particularity. If what is left is identical in both particulars, then you have literal identity.

As a side note, that is a key aspect of my longstanding criticism of the doctrine of analogy. I have long contended that analogy is ultimately reducible to univocity, and for the very reason that you just made, i.e. the similarity must have partial identity and partial difference, and this partial identity must be literal identity, or else you do not have likeness or similarity at all.

Take a thought experiment that's due, if memory serves, to D.M. Armstrong. Suppose two books have the exact same color. Does it make any sense to suppose that the "two" colors were the other way around instead? If not, on what basis do we say there are "two" colors at all, rather than one color instantiated twice (as I think a moderate realist would say)?

Again, it depends upon what you are asking. Are you asking about formal distinction or numerical distinction? Your answer will potentially differ, depending upon what kind of distinction you are asking about.

On the one hand, his "formal identity" seems to grant what I've said above. On the other hand, if his "numerical distinctness" means anything more than that a single (in our example) color can be multiply instantiated, I think he risks tumbling into conceptualism.

Not if the form is formally identical in each numerically distinct instantiation. You seem to think that there can only be numerical identity or distinction, which would be what leads to conceptualism, because it would follow that there are only particulars and that all universals do not correspond to anything really present in the particulars, and are only projections of our minds upon those particulars. Aquinas avoids this problem by endorsing formal identity as an objective ground for similarity relationships. It is one of his positions that I find most appealing.

dguller said...

Timotheos:

Indeed, as you imply, two things that are similar must be in some way the same, and in some other way different, otherwise, the two things would be no longer similar, or they would be the same.

And positing that the sameness that each of these has is merely similar doesn’t solve the problem, since we would have to ask in what way would those two similarities are the same, so that they can be similar, leading to the regress I was mentioning earlier.


I agree, 100%. And if that is true, then analogy must reduce to partial univocity and partial equivocation.

Scott said...

@Timotheos and dguller:

Thanks. It does look as though Aquinas's numerical distinction has to do with different instantiations of a single form rather than with a real multiplicity of forms.

Timotheos, you'll find a good discussion of the regress problem in Brand Blanshard's Reason and Analysis, if you're interested and you haven't already read it. Blanshard doesn't see any reason why some such regresses can't terminate in resemblances that aren't susceptible to further analysis, as long as there are at least some real universals for the resemblances to hold between. For example, for him, the resemblance between red and orange might be one such relation and the (different) resemblance between red and yellow might be another. But these are grounded by the existence of red, orange, and yellow, not by further resemblances that hold between the resemblance relations themselves.

Timotheos said...

@ dguller

"And if that is true, then analogy must reduce to partial univocity and partial equivocation."

That would assume that being is a genus instead of merely acting like a genus. I take analogy to be a "weird" property of the transcendentals, which are a special class themselves. Much like transcendentals in number theory, they can be hard to understand, define, are often just plain weird, and yet they show up all over the place.

But of course, not even all the scholarists accepted the doctrine of analogy, Scotus probably being the most famous example, so this really had debatable written all over it.

dguller said...

Timotheos:

That would assume that being is a genus instead of merely acting like a genus. I take analogy to be a "weird" property of the transcendentals, which are a special class themselves. Much like transcendentals in number theory, they can be hard to understand, define, are often just plain weird, and yet they show up all over the place.

Well, that would depend upon what you mean by “transcendentals”. If you mean being, one, truth, goodness, and so on, then there is no analogy at all. They are all different terms for the exact same underlying referent. Being is not like goodness. Being is goodness.

Also, you are stuck with the problem of making sense of likeness without partial identity and partial difference, which I would argue is incoherent. To say that X is like Y just means that X is the same as Y in some way and X is different from Y in some way. If X was not different from Y in some way, then X would be identical to Y, as you mentioned earlier.

But of course, not even all the scholarists accepted the doctrine of analogy, Scotus probably being the most famous example, so this really had debatable written all over it.

True.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"Also, you are stuck with the problem of making sense of likeness without partial identity and partial difference[.]"

If you're interested, see the Blanshard work I mentioned for one formidable attempt at that very project. Blanshard doesn't accept that (for example) there's a real universal color present in all instances of specific colors (and in general rejects both "abstract" and "generic" universals), but argues that the specific colors are themselves universals[*] with irreducible relations of resemblance between them (which are themselves also universals, of course). In the process he gives an excellent blow-by-blow account of what was once a fairly well-known dispute between Bradley and James on this very subject, awarding the match to James.

He would therefore of course disagree that two things resembling each other must have anything literally in common or be literally identical in any particular respect, though he would certainly agree that this is often the case.

----

[*] These he calls "specific" universals. The term isn't oxymoronic; the contrary of "specific" is "generic" and the contrary of "universal" is "particular."

Scott said...

Incidentally, this is why I was careful to state earlier that moderate realism, in order to be moderate realism at all, must agree that at least some cases of resemblance or similarity "bottom out" in literal identity. It needn't agree that they all have to.

My point was just that a blanket denial of all such identities would amount to a denial of real universals.

dguller said...

Scott:

If you're interested, see the Blanshard work I mentioned for one formidable attempt at that very project. Blanshard doesn't accept that (for example) there's a real universal color present in all instances of specific colors (and in general rejects both "abstract" and "generic" universals), but argues that the specific colors are themselves universals[*] with irreducible relations of resemblance between them (which are themselves also universals, of course). In the process he gives an excellent blow-by-blow account of what was once a fairly well-known dispute between Bradley and James on this very subject, awarding the match to James.

Thanks for the suggestion. It’ll have to get on a fairly massive pile of books yet to be read by myself.

To put it in Aristotelian terms, it sounds like he rejects genera (i.e. color), and only accepts species (i.e. blue). But then what would he say unites the specific colors as colors, if there are only the species, and no higher genus to which they belong? Also, does he actually define what “resemblance” means?

He would therefore of course disagree that two things resembling each other must have anything literally in common or be literally identical in any particular respect, though he would certainly agree that this is often the case.

Like I said, he would have to provide some account of what it means to say that X resembles Y that does not make reference to X and Y having something in common, or being partially identical in some way. Personally, I don’t think that’s possible, but I’m open to be proven wrong.

Scott said...

@dguller:

Blanshard was a master of clear and graceful philosophical prose style, so for that reason alone, I hope you do get around to reading him at some point. Reason and Analysis was one of the major works on which I cut my philosophical teeth way back when, and I still think it's probably his best.

It's sitting perhaps four feet from me on one of my bookshelves at this moment, but I'm a bit pressed for time right now (and I'm also reading the James Madden book mentioned in one of the other recent posts/threads). Sometime in the next day or two I'll pull it out and skim over the relevant chapter to refresh myself on the course of his argument and give you better answers to your questions than I can manage offhand.

But as I recall, he takes "resemblance" as not further definable in terms of anything else, regards resemblance relations as perfectly sufficient for constituting classes or genera all by themselves, and doesn't rely on any references to X and Y having anything literally in common or being identical in any way.

(I don't entirely agree with his full account and I've come to disagree with it more over the years; in particular I think he too readily dismisses such universals as "triangularity," perhaps as a consequence of a confusion between imagination and intellect. But that's a conversation for another time.)

dguller said...

Scott:

Thanks. I look forward to your future posts on this issue.

I'm most interested in (a) how he differentiates resemblance from identity, and (b) how he knows that one is correct when one says that X is like Y.

Take care.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Mr.Green,

There is much truth of what you about Platonism and Aristotelianism. However, I think Coleridge did in fact consider them opposites.

Coleridge says this:

"Every man is born an Aristotelian or a Platonist. I do not think it possible that anyone born an Aristotelian can become a Platonist; and I am sure that no born Platonist can ever change into an Aristotelian. They are two classes of man, beside which it is next to impossible to conceive a third. The one considers reason a quality or attribute; the other considers it a power.... Aristotle was, and still is, the sovereign lord of the understanding—the faculty judging by the senses. He was a conceptualist, and never could raise himself into that higher state, which was natural to Plato, and has been so to others, in which the understanding is distinctly contemplated, and, as it were, looked down upon from the throne of actual ideas, or living, inborn, essential truths."

Coleridge, although one of the greatest modern guides to Plato and one of the greatest modern thinkers, is not the easiest to understand himself. But he is making a distinction akin to that Plato himself has Socrates make, the distinction between those who see the innate unity and essence of things easily and those who naturally are drawn to the diversity and multiplicity of things - with implication, of course, that the former is a higher (and much rarer) mode of knowing and being.

Of course, Coleridge was playing a little fast and loose with labels here, as under his definition of Aristotelianism in this context materialist and naturalists would be arch-Aristotelians. It is not even, necessarily philosophers and philosophically minded he has in mind. His idea of Aristotelian takes in the average sensual man as much as anyone else.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- Coleridge is also alluding here to his famous distinction between Understanding and Reason, which is just the traditional distinction between Reason and Intellect (although Coleridge confusingly switches the terms and uses Reason for the higher faculty).

Mr. Green said...

Edmundas Adomonis: You seem to insist that holes and shadows don't exist after all, so I'm not even sure how the word "exist" is used here; "as though exist" isn't any clearer.

Holes, etc. do exist in our minds; they don't exist outside the world. Or if you prefer, the forms of holes exist: we can imagine them, or write cartoons about them, or abstract them from things that do exist in the world (if you remove some dirt from the ground that leaves a shape, which we can abstract and think of as a substance). But there is no substance that exists out in the world, the way there are substances for people or plants, etc.

There is no metaphysics in this.

Ah, but there is metaphysics in everything!

"hole in the fence" and "there is no fence at all" are very different.

Sure, just as unicorns and mermaids are very different. (But they both don't exist, even though we can think of both of them as though they did exist as substances in the world.) "A hole plus some fence" is of course different from "no fence at all", but the actual place with the hole is identical to that very same place with no fence — if a hole were a substance, there would be something there in that place in the former case that was not there in the second case. But there is no other "thing" there where the hole is, no substance, because a hole is just a privation. And of course, there is something different about the fence when it has a hole: it is then a broken fence.... but brokenness is not a substance either.

I have heard somewhere that some metaphysicians had problems with holes. Very strange.

Some metaphysicians do, because they have bad metaphysics. The Aristotelian view is actually pretty common-sensical in this regard: holes exist, in the sense that where there is no dirt in the ground, there really is no dirt. And they exist in the sense that there are applicable forms we can contemplate. But they do not exist in the same way as other things do, i.e. they are not substances or made out of substances, like a fish or a fence.

Scott said...

@dguller:

I've reread the relevant chapter ("Universals") and I have only the following to add.

First a minor correction: the two kinds of universal Blanshard rejects he calls "generic" and "qualitative." ("Abstract universal" was a term I was recalling from his older work The Nature of thought.)

Your main questions are answered in brief as follows: He takes identity to mean the common possession of a specific universal; he regards this as the extreme case of resemblance; he regards resembalnce in general as a relation (actually a whole large family of relations) as not further analyzable and thus not definable in terms of anything else. His argument for this view is essentially that it's impossible to find some literally common factor in two different (say) colors and that it's entirely possible to regard them as members of a common class based solely on their resemblance to an example give ostensively.

I think he's led himself a bit astray by considering color and (briefly) number as his examples. It seems to me that cases like "triangularity" would have posed a bigger problem, as it appears we can intellectually grasp a common feature of all triangles, and I'm unpersuaded by his earlier argument in The Nature of Thought that there's no such common feature merely because any real triangle has a quite specific shape.

Scott said...

(Correction: "give ostensively" should be "given ostensively.")

dguller said...

Scott:

Your main questions are answered in brief as follows: He takes identity to mean the common possession of a specific universal; he regards this as the extreme case of resemblance; he regards resembalnce in general as a relation (actually a whole large family of relations) as not further analyzable and thus not definable in terms of anything else. His argument for this view is essentially that it's impossible to find some literally common factor in two different (say) colors and that it's entirely possible to regard them as members of a common class based solely on their resemblance to an example give ostensively.

Thanks for the summary, but I’m still confused.

First, you and I both possess the specific universal of human nature, and yet you are I are not identical. So, it cannot be the case that X is identical to Y iff X and Y share an identical specific universal. At most, sharing an identical specific universal would be a partial identity between X and Y. So, I’m still not too sure how he differentiates identity from resemblance.

Second, say you have X and Y, and X resembles Y, because they are both “members of a common class” C. X and Y are determined to both be members of C, because X and Y each resemble “an example given ostensively” E. So, at the end of the day, one can say that X resembles Y, because (1) X resembles E, and (2) Y resembles E. But then my question is why can’t you say that “resembles E” is a “literally common factor” between X and Y? To deny this would be to imply that “resembles E” in (1) is different somehow from “resembles E” in (2), and that would mean that resemblance is “further analyzable”, specifically in terms of partial identity and partial difference. In other words, X’s resemblance to E is partially identical to and partially different from Y’s resemblance to E, which would mean that partial identity and partial difference is the true foundation here.

Third, the way that I look at things is as follows:

(a) X is identical to Y iff X and Y have everything in common
(b) X is similar to Y iff X and Y have something in common
(c) X is different from Y iff X and Y have nothing in common

To me, resemblance would be (b), which presupposes partial identity and partial difference. It makes no sense to take resemblance as primary and basic, because first, it clearly can be further analyzed, and second, it would then be impossible to determine when you are correct in saying that X resembles Y. For example, a leaf resembles a plane. Unless you could explain how a leaf resembles a plane, you could not know if a leaf truly resembled a plane. In other words, you would have to specify in what way a leaf is like a plane, which always means finding something that a leaf and a plane share in common, i.e. a partial identity.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"Thanks for the summary, but I’m still confused."

Sorry, I wasn't very clear. Blanshard's claim is that the identity obtains between the two instantiations of the universal itself, not between the entities that it inhabits: two books might be one identical shade of green but wouldn't therefore be identical books. (He also wouldn't agree that "human nature" is a specific universal.)

"But then my question is why can’t you say that 'resembles E' is a 'literally common factor' between X and Y?"

Because in many (most?) cases the two resemblance relations are themselves somewhat different. Red resembles orange, and yellow resembles orange, but the resemblance of red to orange isn't the same resemblance as that of yellow to orange.

"It makes no sense to take resemblance as primary and basic, because first, it clearly can be further analyzed[.]"

I think that's true in many cases, and I don't think Blanshard would have to deny it either even though he might not extend it to as many cases as I would.

"[S]econd, it would then be impossible to determine when you are correct in saying that X resembles Y."

If so, that would be an epistemological issue, not an ontological one; it might still be the case that X really does resemble Y (and that we're correct in believing as much) even if we couldn't give reasons.

But I'll leave it to you to follow up on his argument as your time permits. Again, the short version of the relevant part is that in some cases, there's nothing we can single out as a literal common factor in two qualities that we can perfectly well know to resemble one another. (I specifically say "qualities" here because, as I mentioned, I think he hasn't dealt with the full range of cases and has dismissed at least generic universals without a proper hearing.)

dguller said...

Scott:

Sorry, I wasn't very clear. Blanshard's claim is that the identity obtains between the two instantiations of the universal itself, not between the entities that it inhabits: two books might be one identical shade of green but wouldn't therefore be identical books. (He also wouldn't agree that "human nature" is a specific universal.)

Right. X and Y are both instantiations of the universal. That is what X and Y have in common, and because what they have in common is only part of their identity, they cannot be said to be identical, but only similar, i.e. partly identical and partly different.

Because in many (most?) cases the two resemblance relations are themselves somewhat different. Red resembles orange, and yellow resembles orange, but the resemblance of red to orange isn't the same resemblance as that of yellow to orange.

First, it still seems to me that this ultimately just comes down to partial identity and partial difference.

Second, it depends upon what aspect of the resemblance relation you choose to highlight. For example, red resembles orange in terms of being a color, and yellow resembles orange in terms of being a color, and their being a color is identical in both, but they differ in terms of being different colors. In other words, they are partly identical (i.e. being a color) and partly different (i.e. being different colors).

I think that's true in many cases, and I don't think Blanshard would have to deny it either even though he might not extend it to as many cases as I would.

I would make the stronger claim that all cases of similarity must involve partial identity and partial difference.

Again, the short version of the relevant part is that in some cases, there's nothing we can single out as a literal common factor in two qualities that we can perfectly well know to resemble one another. (I specifically say "qualities" here because, as I mentioned, I think he hasn't dealt with the full range of cases and has dismissed at least generic universals without a proper hearing.)

And I think that we can certainly single out the fact that they are both qualities, and even kinds of qualities, as “a literal common factor”.

Anyway, thanks for the recommended reading. I’ll look into it as time permits.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"Right. X and Y are both instantiations of the universal. That is what X and Y have in common, and because what they have in common is only part of their identity, they cannot be said to be identical, but only similar, i.e. partly identical and partly different."

My example of the green books was intended to illustrate that Blanshard is talking about characteristics rather than entities. Suppose X and Y each have characteristic c. Then the proposed identity holds, not between X and Y, but between c-in-X and c-in-Y. (It corresponds to what you and Aquinas call formal identity.) His claim is that c-in-X and c-in-Y are not "partly different" even though X and Y may be: one and the same c is present in both X and Y.

"[I]t depends upon what aspect of the resemblance relation you choose to highlight. For example, red resembles orange in terms of being a color, and yellow resembles orange in terms of being a color, and their being a color is identical in both, but they differ in terms of being different colors. In other words, they are partly identical (i.e. being a color) and partly different (i.e. being different colors)."

Not for Blanshard, who denies that e.g. "being a color" is a real universal and for whom two colors therefore aren't "identical" in "being a color." For him their resemblance consists in their belonging by nature to one order and having relations within that order, not by their literally having something specific and determinate in common. We can say that they have "being a color" in common, but on analysis "being a color" turns out to mean nothing more than membership in such an order. And (see below) "membership in such an order" isn't specific and determinate in the requisite sense, as the "membership" of one specific hue isn't precisely the same membership as that of another.

For Blanshard, that's precisely the problem: we don't seem to be able to find one specific, determinate factor literally common to two genuinely different hues (or other specific characteristics).

"I would make the stronger claim that all cases of similarity must involve partial identity and partial difference."

I understand that. I wouldn't, though.

"And I think that we can certainly single out the fact that they are both qualities, and even kinds of qualities, as 'a literal common factor'."

Same problem (see above). "Both being qualities" or even "both being kinds of qualities" isn't something specific and determinate that they have in common; quality q₁'s membership in the order of qualities is not the same as q₂'s.

Scott said...

Incidentally, Ralph Witherington Church takes a similar view in his nice little 1952 book An Analysis of Resemblance. I don't remember when I picked up my copy of it or how easy it is to find now, but it's still useful.

Unlike Blanshard (who, as I said, regards identity as an extreme case of resemblance), Church thinks there are two main senses of resemblance, not one: one according to which two things literally share a common, determinate characteristic, and one according to which they don't. In the latter case his analysis is much the same as Blanshard's: the resembling-but-not-identical characteristics belong by nature to a common order, but not through sharing some determinate factor in common.

If either Blanshard or Church is of interest to you, I'll be happy to make you some scanned copies of the relevant pages and send them to a mailing address of your choice (although it may take a week or three as we're rather busy at present with a sick mother-in-law).

Scott said...

(Minor correction: Ralph Withington Church.)

dguller said...

Scott:

My example of the green books was intended to illustrate that Blanshard is talking about characteristics rather than entities. Suppose X and Y each have characteristic c. Then the proposed identity holds, not between X and Y, but between c-in-X and c-in-Y. (It corresponds to what you and Aquinas call formal identity.) His claim is that c-in-X and c-in-Y are not "partly different" even though X and Y may be: one and the same c is present in both X and Y.

Agreed.

Not for Blanshard, who denies that e.g. "being a color" is a real universal and for whom two colors therefore aren't "identical" in "being a color."

It would be interesting to know why he denies this. It seems pretty straightforward to me.

For him their resemblance consists in their belonging by nature to one order and having relations within that order, not by their literally having something specific and determinate in common.

But again, why can’t one say that “having relations within that order” is “having something specific and determinate in common”? Perhaps the problem is just semantic and terminological, i.e. he means something in particular by “specific and determinate”?

And (see below) "membership in such an order" isn't specific and determinate in the requisite sense, as the "membership" of one specific hue isn't precisely the same membership as that of another.

Again, one color would be similar to another color, because they are partly identical (i.e. they are colors) and they are partly different (i.e. they are different colors). I still don’t see why affirming that they both belong to the order of color does not count as specific and determinate.

For Blanshard, that's precisely the problem: we don't seem to be able to find one specific, determinate factor literally common to two genuinely different hues (or other specific characteristics).

Sure, we do. They are both colors. They are not chairs. They are not dogs. They are not numbers. They are colors.

Same problem (see above). "Both being qualities" or even "both being kinds of qualities" isn't something specific and determinate that they have in common; quality q₁'s membership in the order of qualities is not the same as q₂'s.

I still don’t understand why not. They occupy different positions within the order of qualities, but that does not change the fact that they belong to the order of qualities. That would be like saying that a pitcher and short stop cannot be said to belong to the exact same team, because they have different roles in that team.

In the latter case his analysis is much the same as Blanshard's: the resembling-but-not-identical characteristics belong by nature to a common order, but not through sharing some determinate factor in common.

But this still doesn’t explain why belonging to a common order does not count as sharing some determinate factor in common.

If either Blanshard or Church is of interest to you, I'll be happy to make you some scanned copies of the relevant pages and send them to a mailing address of your choice (although it may take a week or three as we're rather busy at present with a sick mother-in-law).

That’s very kind of you. I’d recommend you focus upon caring for your mother-in-law for now. We can revisit this issue at a later date.

Take care.

dguller said...

Scott:

Oh, and it goes without saying that I wish your mother-in-law a speedy recovery.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"I still don’t see why affirming that they both belong to the order of color does not count as specific and determinate."

For Blanshard, because he's argued on other grounds that in nature/reality, there's no such thing as "color" that isn't this or that specific color, and likewise for other characteristics/properties. Thus the same goes by implication for the specific memberships of this or that color in the order of colors: the membership of orange in that order just is its standing in certain resemblance relations to the range of other colors, the same goes for red, and those two sets of relationships (and therefore the two precise memberships) aren't identical.

As for me, I'm not too bothered about it. I think Blanshard has misfired a bit in ruling out such "general" properties altogether. I've already mentioned "triangularity," and if membership in (say) a spectrum is one such, then okay.

But yeah, let's table this until another time, and thank you for your good wishes.

Edmundas Adomonis said...

@Mr. Green
"But they do not exist in the same way as other things do, i.e. they are not substances or made out of substances, like a fish or a fence."

"But there is no other "thing" there where the hole is, no substance, because a hole is just a privation. And of course, there is something different about the fence when it has a hole: it is then a broken fence.... but brokenness is not a substance either."

Sure, I agree, no problem (let's assume that the word "substance" is clear enough).

The metaphysics which says that "holes, etc. do exist in our minds; they don't exist outside in the world" is neither common-sensical nor good. The ridiculous point is that we seem to agree about the facts concerning holes, etc. and then to disagree about their existence. That's curious disagreement. If you say "there is a hole in the fence", so how can you say "holes don't exist"? So the problem probably lies in the use of the word "exist": do you use it in some technical restricted sense?

By the way, the word "exist" doesn't seem to be that common. I am not a native English speaker but I see examples like "do ghosts exist?" which are quite commonsensical.

"Ah, but there is metaphysics in everything!"

I can't agree with that at all - this is a different topic, though. But there is something deeply wrong here: problems start when the talk about the metaphysics of holes starts. I'm not clear on this as yet.

We have a lot of conceptual tools to talk about different aspects the world: about individual people, empty containers, shadows, mirror images, colors, lengths, weights etc., etc. When we have a table, the table, its length, its weight, its color, holes in it are different sorts of things (like weight can't have length or shadows can't have weight). Probably we can explain it by saying roughly that "they do not exist in the same way" (meaning that they just conceptually of different sort or smth).

Edmundas Adomonis said...

By the way, does anyone remember whether Aristotle has written anywhere about holes, shadows, etc. explicitly?